Jewish Journal


May 28, 2010

David Lonner’s Israel


From left: Nina Jacobson, George Freeman, David Lonner, Brad Silberling, Amy Pascal, Bernie Weinraub, Donald De Line and Davis Guggenheim on a visit to Israel in 2007.

From left: Nina Jacobson, George Freeman, David Lonner, Brad Silberling, Amy Pascal, Bernie Weinraub, Donald De Line and Davis Guggenheim on a visit to Israel in 2007.

Every year, one of Hollywood’s top talent representatives invites a group of industry executives and tastemakers to visit Israel for the first time. Although it’s nearly impossible to get on David Lonner’s guest list, you can get a taste of his trip as he shares his favorite, not-to-be-missed Holy Land hot spots.

Scope out ancient aqueducts under the City of David in Jerusalem

“It is like a real-life amusement park ride, like going through some Indiana Jones tunnel where, on an action-packed level, King David conquered the city of Jerusalem through it. Both the real historic context and the fun of walking in this ancient aqueduct under this special city is the basis – you know, for a Hollywood guy – for a real-life adventure movie.”

Take a Cross-country Helicopter Ride

“This is what I could call a cornerstone moment of the trip, because it shows the incredible beauty of Israel and the radically different topography that exists from the sky. It also gives an understanding of how small the country really is, the geographical pressure that they’re under, who they’re surrounded by. You get a sense of how precious the country is. Everybody gets nervous the night before they go on the helicopter ride, and I always have to remind people that the greatest pilots in the world are flying. Once up there, people are exhilarated; they’re struck by the lushness of the North, the forests of Jerusalem, the deserts of Masada and the Dead Sea. To see Masada from the air should really be one of the Seven Wonders of the World; it’s a wonder to behold.”

Sightsee in Caesarea

“I always describe Caesarea — the ancient Roman ruins by the sea — as Israel’s Malibu. There’s an area where you see King Herod built a pool in the ocean and I always thought, ‘That’s something David Geffen would have wanted.’ I love Caesarea because to me it speaks to the royalty of the ancient world and the royalty of current residents in Israel; it’s probably the ultimate upper-class residential area.

Some of the finer restaurants are there. Not that I want to get into the bourgeois of it all, but it’s fascinating to see what people who had a lot of wealth did then and what they still do – it shows nothing has changed.”

Shop the streets of Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv

“To me this is like taking somebody to Greenwich Village – only this is on the Mediterranean. I love the cultural vibrancy of the place; it defines the cultural center of Israel in terms of artistic freedom. When I take people and I talk about Israel as a free, progressive society and that it’s the only place on par with America, Neve Tzedek is the essence of that. It’s fun, hip, elegant seaside shopping that represents the cultural, capitalistic and artistic nature of a modern city. I love walking the streets and just stumbling into certain places. And obviously, having the ocean setting is spectacular.”

Hike to an oasis in the Negev

“My fondest memory is when I took my family and we hiked through the Negev to this oasis. We were actually surrounded by a bunch of Israeli high school classes that were on a field trip and young soldiers going through part of their training by hiking the Negev — and anytime I see these young boys and girls serving in the army, Israeli or American, it moves me. It makes me feel proud to be Jewish.

You realize that they are sacrificing for the safety of myself and my family and the idea that we could walk through a desert, get to a pool of water with palm trees that provide nourishment and peace, and that usually comes with a soft breeze and shade. It’s what Springsteen would call the ‘Land of Hope and Dreams.’ I named my company Oasis Media Group because an oasis is something that helps me dream. And I look at Israel as my oasis; there I get to recharge spiritually, physically and intellectually, and connect deeply to my roots. I feel like I’m plugged into an energy source when I’m there.”

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